April 30th: The Labyrinth as a Metaphor for Entrepreneurship (& Life)

The Author

E. Alana James

E. Alana James

Dr E Alana James is reinventing herself again! Coming full circle to the first love of her life - art - and bringing back to her images all the lessons of her life as author, researcher, academic and wife. Concerned mostly with the idea of images as vehicles for expression of the truth of our inner and outer life experience.

I walked the labyrinth in the middle of the mall that runs down the centre of the Glasnevin campus this week when I was visiting there.  DCU is the flagship university for our fledgling business, pSuddortals sold to universities that bring professional development online for their students.  It had been a decade or more since I had walked a labyrinth, although we used to have a much simpler version in our backyard in Colorado.  I had forgotten what a great metaphor they are for life, especially the life and progress of an entrepreneur.

Labyrinths predate Christianity, you start at one spot and progress towards the center on a path that is guaranteed to take you to your goal, even if you can’t see the way at times.  One way in, one way out.  Articles will wax poetic about feminine elements, the blending of the cross and the mandala, or about the great mysteries revealed as we walk them.  Maybe so for some, but for me, it is simply a GREAT METAPHOR of life’s lessons – the ones we are most likely to forget:

  1. Getting to our goals is always more complicated than we think when we start.  After all, we can see the place we are going, still, there are many twists and turns before we get there.
  2. You get close, so close, to the goal seems just a step away and then you spin out as far away from your goal as you could imagine, and you didn’t see it coming!  This part of the pathway is discouraging, and in a labyrinth like the design at DCU (and Chartres cathedral) the spinning out away from the centre is so sudden that it makes you wonder what you are doing there and if you even want to continue.
  3. Then you give up your sense of control.  You have given yourself over to this path at this moment.  The only way to make it to the centre is to continue, no matter where it takes you so you recommit and keep on moving ahead even though you now know you can’t see the way.
  4. After your perseverance and dedication have been tested you settle in and just keep walking.  This brings a quiet moment that has its own satisfaction.  You are just doing the work.
  5. Suddenly, you’ve made it!.  The last section takes you by surprise because all of a sudden you turn yet another corner and there it is, straight ahead.
  6. And then of course, there will be another path, another labyrinth, but first you have to walk out of this one, reflecting on its lessons as you go.

This week workwise was like being in the centre of the labyrinth for me.  At DCU we moved ahead to include all of their doctoral students next year in having access to our tools.  We have proved ourselves useful.  Also, a student gave me flowers and candy as a thank you for the support she found with our tools, wanting me to see and understand that we are very important to some in helping them reach their goals. Finally, on Friday I picked up the 50K investment from Enterprise Ireland.  There won’t be many weeks that are as much the centre of the labyrinth as this one.

Reflecting on the path, there have been huge twists and turns. I was so discouraged that at one point we almost stopped.  At other times we just kept on building, seeing small progress and trusting we were on the single path to our goal.  I’d say the lesson is to trust the path and not worry over much as to where or how it takes you.  Also to allow the peace and satisfaction of being on the path to settle in as its own satisfaction.  That sets you slightly apart which can offer the comfort of knowing you are where you need to be.

Finally, if you meet someone coming the other way, smile, stop and move aside, and acknowledge that this path is important and that we are not alone even when we are working our way in a solitary fashion.  I was alone in the labyrinth at DCU, but at other times I have walked in groups.  Both are good, but at the end, the path we walk is unique to us, just as what goes on in our minds and hearts when we walk a labyrinth is unique as well.